Receive Breaking News updates as they occur
China on Saturday called US criticism of an approach by one of its jets to a US Navy patrol plane off the Chinese coast earlier this week "completely groundless" and said its pilot had maintained a safe distance from the US aircraft. The strongly-worded statement attributed to Ministry of National Defense spokesman Yang Yujun was a response to a diplomatic complaint the Pentagon filed with Beijing on Friday. The complaint concerned an August 19 encounter about 215 km (135 miles) east of China's Hainan Island in which a Chinese fighter jet came within meters (yards) of a US P-8 Poseidon anti-submarine and reconnaissance plane and, the US claimed, performed acrobatic maneuvers around it. In its statement, the Chinese defense ministry said the J-11 jet was conducting routine checks and described the pilot's actions as professional.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel pushed for a new ceasefire in crisis talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Saturday, as a controversial Russian convoy returned home. The visit by Merkel -- the most influential Western leader to call on Kiev since the crisis erupted in the ex-Soviet state -- came ahead of crunch talks next Tuesday between Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin alongside top EU officials. Tensions surged on Friday when Russia sent scores of trucks it said were carrying aid to the stricken insurgent stronghold of Lugansk in an unauthorised move Kiev described as a "direct invasion".